1. Defence improvements?
Defence has been one area that Sunwolves have failed to address in their three seasons in Super Rugby to date. Despite shipping 45 points in their opening match of 2019, they recorded a respectable tackle-success rate of 89.7%, even better than their opponents, Sharks (88.7%).
The Sunwolves back row that started the match against Sharks didn’t miss a single tackle, with Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Ed Quirk and Hendrik Tui making 25 tackles between them. Tony Brown and deputee Scott Hansen will hope that this resilience in the tackle with spread beyond the back row as Sunwolves look to curb the reputation as the whipping boy of Super Rugby.
2. Ill-discipline to blame
Sunwolves conceded a staggering 16 penalties against Sharks, equating to them being penalized once almost every five minutes. Those 16 penalties are more than double the tally that their opponents conceded, with the hosts often penalized at the breakdown.
What’s more alarming for the Sunwolves coaching staff is that seven of those penalties conceded came in their own 22 and were ultimately pivotal in their downfall against the Sharks.
3. Brown's disappearing act
Tony Brown was nowhere to be seen at Singapore National Stadium on Saturday, with assistant coach Scott Hansen tasked with taking control of the Sunwolves for the game. Despite Brown being unveiled as head coach of the team last year, it appears that he will not be coaching the side for the first month at least as he prioritises training camps with the Japan national side over Super Rugby. Brown was spotted with Jamie Joseph at an England training session last week in the build-up to Sunwolves’ opener in Singapore.
4. Lack of cohesion
Apart from the opening 10 minutes, Sunwolves offered very little attacking threat with ball in hand, opting to kick possession away instead of trusting their hands.
They were arife with handling errors, which cost them dear at crucial moments in the match. Could it be down to a lack of time together and the abundance of new faces that have affected team chemistry?
5. Sayonara Singapore?
Sunwolves have now lost seven of their nine matches in Singapore. Watching the match in a soulless stadium isn’t ideal for neither players nor fans, and it’s disastrous for SANZAAR for the TV camera to pick up on all those empty seats inside the stadium.
Even in their only win to date at Singapore National Stadium, a meagre 5,000 fans turned out to watch them at the 55,000 capacity arena. Despite the vast number of expats residing in Singapore, Sunwolves’ efforts to win over those expats and attract them to Super Rugby matches has been largely successful. Singapore matches need to be scrapped for the sake of the franchise and Super Rugby as a whole.